Study: Local Transportation Systems Fail Elderly, Disabled Riders

Chicago News

CHICAGO (CBS) — A transportation study reveals the needs of the disabled and the elderly are not being met adequately and completely by the area’s bus and rail systems.

The nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council published a two-year study on the systemic problems faced by those who need public transportation services and have limited mobility.

Among some of the findings, people with disabilities are four times less likely to be working than people who are not disabled. A survey from Federal Highway Administration reports that, across the United States, only 20% of people between the ages of 18-64 work full or part-time if they have some type of travel limitation.

That’s compared to more than 75% of people in the same age group who don’t have a disability.

“As someone who developed a visual disability in my ‘30s, I have become more reliant on public transit myself. I understand the frustrations people face when trying to navigate a system not designed to accommodate their unique needs,” said MarySue Barrett, President of the Metropolitan Planning Council.

The report notes that despite the increased availability of ride-share services like Uber or Lyft “for people that
are ambulatory, wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) may not be widely available through this service.” People can request a WAV but “availability is not guaranteed and wait times may be high.”

Another issue is the hours per week someone can access public transportation, specifically paratransit services.

“The hours of available service often do not include evenings and weekends,” the report noted. “This can be very limiting in terms of the ability to maintain full time —or even part time — employment.”

“It is also important to acknowledge the impact for many people of being unable to get around via public transportation during nights and weekends, when many family or social activities may occur.”


The MPC listed more than 30 recommendations to combat the issues faced by those with limited mobility options.

One is to create a regional “Mobility Coordinator” to “break down silos between transportation agencies.” According to the report, it could create a more streamlined system.

For the area’s mass transit systems, one recommendation is for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace to “standardize” wayfinding signs. Also for municipalities to install mechanisms that would transmit “audio clues” at busy intersections.

The changes, inevitably, would cost money. The MPC added that those transit agencies should “prioritize their existing capital funds to make all existing rail stations and transfer points accessible and comfortable, include upgrades to wayfinding for low-vision and deaf riders.”

Tuesday is the United Nations International Day of Persons With Disabilities.

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